As is the standard when I type these up, this is my personal take on the Virtues, and not to be taken as ‘law’ as it pertains to the House.
Self Reliance is a combination of Fidelity(faith to one’s self),Discipline(staying focused on your goals), Industry(working hard and enjoying the results), and Perseverance(not giving up when things get hard). It means that you can stand on your own in all things and still come out for the better.
It’s odd to think of a Virtue that laughs in the face of the ‘No Man is an Island’ philosophy as something that is beneficial to a community. Think of it like this. A person that can stand on their own is far more likely to be in a position to help someone who has faltered. It’s hard to give shelter to a friend if you’re living on someone’s couch. It’s hard to get groceries for your aging parents if you’re on food stamps. It’s hard to put time in doing charity work if you’re working two jobs to keep from going under. It’s hard to give emotional support to a friend if you’re unable to recognize or work past your own issues. Notice I said ‘hard’, not ‘impossible’. In all these situations, doing the good thing is taxing. Being self reliant lowers the price of doing good works for others to the point to where you can afford to do a lot more good for a lot less cost.
There’s a few subsets to Self Reliance. I’m going to focus on Financial and Emotional.
Financial Self Reliance does not mean being rich. It’s simply living within your means and being financially responsible, whether you are living by yourself or if you’re in a ‘team’ financial situation. There is a certain liberation that comes with having little to no debt and a chunk of ‘for emergency use only’ money in the bank. What you work for is actually building you up instead of sinking into the black holes of payday loans, credit cards, pawn shops, and, ugh, student loans. Look, if you find yourself living continually off of loans and credit cards, you are not self reliant. If you lose a weeks pay because of illness or a family emergency and it puts you in the red, you are not in a place of strength. You are in a bad spot that is creating stress and more financial burden. When you make things so that you aren’t stressing over money and do not need a line of credit to exist, if you can get sick for a month and not have to worry about your bills, you have reached financial self reliance.
I cannot stress enough that this does not mean ‘strive to get rich’. It means ‘strive to be rid of debt and financial stress’. Living paycheck to paycheck is a miserable existence. The world won’t hand you a way out of that kind of lifestyle. You have to earn it.
How does this help a community? You become a walking example. You are proof that if you grind it out and make the necessary sacrifices, you can cast off the shackles. Not only that, you are in a much better spot to aid a brother in need. You can offer wisdom from experience, a roof, a meal…you can take a day off of work (because you can afford to) to help with something. You can contribute money instead of time if your schedule is tight.
My wife and I make a decent income…yet I drink Miller High Life ($17 for a pack of 30 cans), roll my own cigarettes ($40ish bucks for a months supply of tubes and tobacco for the both of us), and we don’t have any form of cable tv(just internet, we stream every show we want to watch). It’s not that we can’t afford premium beer, cable tv, or name brand smokes…it’s that we’d rather put that $300 combined savings towards, you know, a future. That’s just 3 of the lifestyle changes we’ve made to ensure we are in a good position. Because of this and other hard choices, we’re both able to aid our family and friends when the need arises.
*quick disclaimer: I am by no means perfect. I slip, and make mistakes, and still do stupid things with money from time to time. While we are in a good position monetarily, I fully admit that it could be even better if we made more sacrifices. In other words, we’re a good example, not a flawless one.
Okay, so, I’ve pointed out what Financial Self Reliance is. Some of you are there already. Some of you are actively working to be there. Some of you want to be there but don’t know how or have given up hope. If you’re in the first two groups…congratulations. If you’re in the third, feel free to consult with me. I am not a licensed financial adviser, but I have screwed up an awful lot over the years, and am more than willing to share what these hard lessons have taught.
Moving on now.
Emotional Self Reliance. Look, everyone needs some kind of emotional support structure involving friends and family. This isn’t about shutting everyone out and tackling your own issues solo. It’s about knowing when not to burden others.
I’m going to have to give an example here, so bear with me.
Okay, so this is a bit sad, but picture a scenario where a loving husband and father of two loses his wife to cancer suddenly. The children(son, 20 yrs old and daughter, 23 years old) and their father are completely lacking in emotional self reliance. The mother was always the one they could turn to to vent, she was always the one that pointed out useless anger, always the one to soothe hurt feelings, always the one to point out silver linings. Regardless of how her day went and her own stress, she was always able to help her family process theirs. And now she’s gone.
The above scenario is a ticking time bomb. Emotional outbursts, hurtful words, deep depression, misplaced anger. This could very likely leave deep scars or even tear the family apart.
Right, so same scenario, except the loving father is also emotionally self reliant. Sure, he would like to grieve, but he knows his children need him. He copes with his grief on his own while helping the children work through theirs. It’s stormy seas, but father is able to keep the ship on course through the storm. He may be a little worse for wear, it might take him a little longer to process the loss, but the family stays whole with only moderate damage.
Last one…same situation, except the father and the children are emotionally self reliant. They can process their grief alone and together. They can take turns being strong when the others falter. They make it through with minimal damage, and probably with strengthened bonds.
I know the above is a bit of an extreme example, but it’s validity is solid. Knowing how to process your emotions, how to put them away for a while, allows you to do more than just help those that are grieving. It’s how you keep from panicking in an emergency, how you make sound decisions even though you’re filled with anger or fear, it’s how you show confidence even when you’re not feeling it.
It isn’t just about knowing how to deal with your own emotions…it’s recognizing when your friends and family need help to process theirs. It all starts with controlling your reactions. Try it out in traffic. The next time somebody cuts you off, do not lay on the horn or wave the finger or scream obscenities. Take a deep breath. Analyze exactly why you got angry…did you not see it coming and had to slam on your brakes? Did it start off as fright? Have you been watching this person zigging through traffic behind you and did you suspect they would dart in front of you as they pulled up beside, and you’re mad because you dislike aggressive drivers? This plays a bit with Honesty…if you can get to the root cause of the knee jerk emotional response, you stand a far better chance of not letting it run away with you or ruin your mood. It allows you to realize when your emotional response to something is pointless or selfish or based on another situation entirely. It allows you to keep a level head in an emergency, and to process the negative aspect of emotions faster and more productively.
So there you have it. How focusing on bettering yourself allows you better help those around you. And yet again, another Virtue that I am cutting short because I’ve realized there’s a books worth of material here to cover.